LA MARQUE — The county’s first charter school is facing the same enrollment-based financial difficulties as the La Marque school district.
Mainland Preparatory Academy was forced to cut a dozen teachers to avoid overstaffing and overspending, following a 10-year decline in enrollment.
A total of 387 students, ranging from prekindergarten to eighth grade, are enrolled for the 2012-13 school year, down from 609 students during the 2003-04 school year, a 36 percent decrease.
The open enrollment charter school has been its own district since it opened in 1998. The school does not charge tuition. Most of its funding is from the state.
The school anticipated receiving $3.5 million in state funding for fiscal 2012; however, the decrease in enrollment meant it was eligible for only $2.9 million.
It was one of 23 districts and charters in Texas, including the La Marque school district, that were required to prepare a financial solvency plan for the Texas Education Agency.
The first step was to cut teachers from the math, foreign language, science, social studies and language arts departments, effectively saving the school $300,000 in salaries and benefits.
The next steps include eliminating music and fine arts classes for fifth through eighth grades and extracurricular activities.
Payments on $5 million of infrastructure bonds that went to fund construction of the school building in 2002 have been frozen to give the school time to implement its budget plan, Superintendent Diane Merchant said.
She said increasing revenue and enrollment numbers are the school’s highest priorities. The plan assumed a 5 percent increase in enrollment by 2015, and it added two classes to kindergarten and first grade to accommodate more students.
Mainland Preparatory students consistently rank among Galveston County schools’ highest performers on the reading sections of state assessment tests, and Merchant is counting on that reputation and increased marketing efforts to attract students.
“We are taking aggressive steps to continue on our journey to provide an exemplary program and achieve financial solvency,” Merchant said.